BBC BLOGS - Newsnight: Michael Crick
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Michael Crick | 15:12 UK time, Wednesday, 24 November 2010

It was interesting to see that the demonstrators outside the Liberal Democrat HQ today were the subject of "kettling" by the police. For it was barely a year ago that the Lib Dems decried such tactics.

At the 2009 Lib Dem conference their then Justice spokesman David Howarth said:

"The ugly scenes of police aggression and intimidation witnessed at the G20 protests and the Kingsnorth demonstrations were a national disgrace.

"Tactics like baton charges, the seizure of personal property and the kettling of protestors for hours on end are fundamentally wrong. They are a threat to democratic rights, they cause distress and injury, increase tension, provoke reaction and damage the reputation of the police.

"These tactics must change. The police must recognise the democratic right to protest and put the protection of the public first at all times."


  • Comment number 1.

    I take it we will shortly see an email you have been leaked from the Lib Dem HQ ordering the police to kettle protesters? No? You mean we have operational independence of the police? Oh.

  • Comment number 2.

    I agree with Mr. Jenkinson. This only demonstrates the Lib Dems had a point -- the technique is inhumane and they protested it. Surely one cannot presume that because the police used it in front of their headquarters that means they support it. I suspect the opposite will be true -- they will soon issue a statement that even those protesting Lib Dem policies should be protected from kettling.

  • Comment number 3.


    Good blog!


  • Comment number 4.


    He could have explained his regret. The most he might lose is his life.

  • Comment number 5.

    You know, Michael, in your desire for a good story you often turn out looking a bit dim.

    Last time a crowd recently gathered outside a party headquarters in central London the place was attacked and all sorts of violence ensued. This time the same was attempted and the police stopped it. Job done.

    The tactic of `kettling' is to stop violence. The problem with the tactic, as with the Anti-Terrorism laws, has been that they have been used against non-violent protestors and even people who had no political engagement whatsover. Hopefully, the police are recovering their sense of proportion.

  • Comment number 6.

    The right to protest is very important indeed, but not more important than the right of coppers not to have large, heavy objects dropped on their heads from great heights, or the rights of law abiding tax-payers not to have their extremely expensive assets vandalised by naughty school children.
    The harsh truth is that society should and must decide how many University graduates it needs and in what disciplines, just as it always has. In my time it was done at age 11, when most poor kids were filtered out into manual work. Grants were not an option and neither were GCE's, it was all down to geography, background and chance. Now, thanks to Harold Wilson there is infinately more freedom of opportunity, but no appreciation of the fact that it all has to be paid for, apparently.

  • Comment number 7.

    #6 - ElectricTonybrooke

    In this situation, any 'large, heavy objects dropped on their heads' would have had to have come from LibDem HQ. Or not?

  • Comment number 8.

    Who drops what from where and on whom, is all far too acedemic for us workers, mate. Better ask graduate.

  • Comment number 9.

    Politicians in hypocrisy shocker. In other news, Dog Bites Man.

  • Comment number 10.

    Maybe we could have an unbiased article on the "students" that wrecked police vehicles, bus shelters, lit fires in the road etc.
    Who were these people Michael and what groups do they represent.

  • Comment number 11.

    Maybe it's time the Lib Dems of today brand themselves "New Lib Dems". Everything they mentioned pre-May is no longer what they believe in.

  • Comment number 12.

    you can protest as much as you like...nothing ever happens...break a few windows....mmm....well alright, let's talk....

  • Comment number 13.

    As far as the law is concerned during protest there must be safe exit points to allow ppl to exit safely..however the police seem to forget this and often cut off or block ppls exit points thus putting a great deal of pressure on the crowd which inevitably provokes trouble especially if agent provocateaurs are involved as has happened before...and having mounted police charging at you can be scary enough also there were children present....not all protests are by cant use a one size fits all.situation..and anyway what happened to the publics police it law and order or to appease daily mail/sun/express/torygraph/readers..police are meant to be apolitical..haha...

  • Comment number 14.

    often theres a conflict between 'containment' and 'dispersal' wherby dispersal areas are cordoned off...even tube stations at times been closed...this only exacerbates the situation..

  • Comment number 15.

    I agree with Michael and Howarth that kettling is too indiscriminate a tactic. People that want to get home to feed the cat or watch the Strictly update at 6.30 have to wait for hours with aching bladders when there is nothing in the public interest to be gained by not letting them go home.

    However the tacit suggestion of hypocrisy on the part of the Lib Dems only works if Michael can prove that they were influencing the police to adopt the tactic. More likely that the police were merely asked to use their own judgement which of course couldn't possibly be influenced by overtime and Christmas coming- of course not!

  • Comment number 16.

    So what is the legal position on kettling?

    Isn't this just illegal imprisonment by the police?

  • Comment number 17.

    It's certainly indiscriminate imprisonment, and certainly potentially expensive to the tax-payer, but illegal- surely not when it's being done by the police! We've only just started paying the interest on the millions we've had to increase our borrowing by in order to pay off the people who we didn't torture but think we should've jolly well done more to stop it. If we start dishing out the compo to the 'victims of kettling', in the near future our current 4.8 trillion national debt might end up as a nostalgic memory!

  • Comment number 18.

    I'd say the protestors should count themselves to be in a kettle. In one they're reasonably safe from being bitten by a dog, whacked on their legs, then dying from a completely coincidental induced heart attack.

    Or walking themselves into a door frame in a police cell.

  • Comment number 19.

    Watching the video recently released on Youtube makes it clear what the purpose of kettling actually is: it's to get a large group of demonstrators all together in one place, so they can be charged at by police horses.

  • Comment number 20.

    So we have vetting and barring, CRB checks and so many other systems to protect children from abuse and yet we can herd them into a tight space and keep them trapped for hours, even when their parents are the other side of the cordon asking to have them let out. This was not our finest moment.


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